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10 Heat Pump Myths That Are Just Hot Air

Because heat pumps are so new for most people in the UK, there are a huge amount of myths and misconceptions around them; we talk daily with customers and the most common misconceptions around heat pumps are that they’re too expensive, too noisy, and inefficient – so let’s dispel some of these myths and clear the air.

Myth #1: “Heat pumps are too expensive!”

This myth wasn’t really a myth in the early days of heat pumps, and is still one that’s relative to your means. The initial outlay of a high-efficiency, expert-installed air source heat pump system isn’t cheap – but you can now make use of government grants to immediately save £7,500 from your upfront costs.

This means that you’re not only upgrading your heating system to a completely eco-friendly alternative (when powered by green energy tariffs or on-site renewable sources), but you’re doing so at an incredibly discounted price!

We explain heat pump costs on our dedicated page – we don’t hide our prices!

Myth #2: “Air source heat pumps are noisy!”

When heat pumps first came onto the market, around fifty years ago, they certainly were quite noisy and unappealing. Usually, the ones like these that people think of are the air-to-air heat pumps used for large commercial installations like heating office blocks, hospitals, and modern (for the time) schools.

But the domestic air-to-water heat pumps of today have come a long way – using the latest in noise reduction technology (like scroll compressors) and energy efficiency enhancements. In fact, some of the models we install use the same propellers that are used in stealth submarines – where being quiet is a life-or-death issue.

We detail heat pump noise here but the noise produced by our heat pumps from 3 metres away is around 38 decibels – which is equivalent to around a whisper – in standard operation mode.

To put that into perspective, a gas boiler produces between 40-60dB of noise inside your home while operating – whereas an air source heat pump unit is outside.

Myth #3: “Heat pumps are not efficient during cold winters!”

Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the air outside. Because they don’t need to burn a fuel to operate, they can operate at more than 100% efficiency – usually between 300-400% efficiency over a whole year. But despite being called ‘heat’ pumps, they don’t need hot air to work (in the same way that solar panels don’t need sunshine to still work).

They’re able to extract heat from the air by creating a temperature difference between a refrigerant and the outside air. Which means that, so long as the outside air temperature is above around -28°C, they’ll be able to work well all year round. This is especially the case here in the UK, where temperatures only fall to around 0°C for a few weeks every year.

It’s no coincidence, then, that a country as cold as Sweden has the highest percentage of heat pumps in the world – they just work. Now, they do work less efficiently in extremely cold weather, (they may, for example, work at 200% efficiency for a few days) but this is then more than made up for when they work at more than 400% efficiency during warmer summer months!

The 300-400% efficiency we always aim for is an average efficiency over the whole year.

Myth #4: “Heat pumps need to stay on all the time!”

This myth depends on how well (or poorly) insulated your home is. If you have a poorly insulated home then you’ll need to keep your heating on for longer – regardless of whether you’re still heating it with a gas boiler or you’ve upgraded to an air source heat pump.

If your house has proper insulation and the heat pump system is installed correctly, then you’ll be able to turn the heat pump on and off as you see fit if you need a blast of heat. A key note, though, is that in standard operation heat pumps gradually heat your home, meaning that you can choose to more efficiently keep your home at a stable, comfortable temperature rather than having to fluctuate between hot and cold.

This is usually by far the most efficient way to run a heat pump – which means that it uses significantly less energy in total. So while it can be on all the time, this doesn’t mean it’s using as much energy as a gas boiler that’s staying on all the time.

Myth #5: “Heat pumps only work with underfloor heating!”

Heat pump systems can be made more efficient when connected to an underfloor heating system, but many customers have heat pump installations with only radiators. You also don’t necessarily need to have new radiators installed!

A new heat pump will work perfectly well with more modern convection radiators and can function with traditional panel ones, but will operate at a lower efficiency than if you upgrade to larger radiators – learn more about radiators and whether you’ll benefit from an upgrade here.

Myth #6: “A heat pump can only be installed in new buildings!”

While planning heat pump installations into new-build projects can offer great value for money in terms of system efficiency and total cost, a heat pump can be installed in any property – from old Victorian houses to brand new homes. Expert installers like ours are highly trained to deal with any situation in a heat pump installation.

Usually, however, with retrofits, we’ll have to carry out a heat loss report as part of our initial survey & system design. As part of these, we’ll also recommend any other system upgrades that would benefit the system efficiency.

In short, you can install a heat pump to heat any building, but upgrading the insulation at the same time as the installation will end up with a much more effective heating system.

Myth #7: “Heat pumps take up a lot of space!”

While heat pump units can be quite large compared to a high efficiency combi boiler, they have the benefit of being outside your home. And, depending on the heating system you previously had, this has the added benefit of sometimes freeing up space within your home as you’ll no longer have to have a clunky gas boiler in a cupboard or a kitchen.

We will, however, still need space inside your home for some components, but many of these components are similar to ones you’d have with a normal gas boiler. Compared to something like a biomass heating system, an air source heat pump takes up no space at all.

Myth #8: “Heat pumps are used for heating only!”

Air-to-water heat pumps, such as the ones we install can heat your home and the water that comes out of your taps. 

Air-to-air heat pumps (like the ‘HVAC’ systems you’d expect in many North American properties) are able to extract heat from inside the home during summer.

So why isn’t this a staple in UK homes? Well, for three primary reasons.

1 - We don’t need to cool our homes in the UK

Mostly, we don’t really need to cool our homes in summers (our summers don’t get as hot as they do in, say, Los Angeles) and doing so actually doubles energy consumption. It’s ‘double’ than what we currently use because you have to use energy to run an air cooling system in the same way that you have to use energy to heat your home.

2 - UK homes are already plumbed with water-based heating

The other main reason that these systems aren’t that common in the UK is that most UK homes are already plumbed with water heating – having to rip out all the pipes and install bulky air ducting around your home is a huge effort for not much reward.

3 - You can’t heat water with a HVAC system

Perhaps the most crucial benefit of air-to-water heating systems over HVAC systems is that you can also heat your home’s water (for sinks, showers, and baths) using an air-to-water heat pump. This is something that you can’t do with an air-to-air system: it requires you to have separate, often electric water heaters installed – and these can often provide inconsistent pressure & heat.

Myth #9: “A heat pump needs frequent maintenance work!”

Like gas boilers, heat pumps still need to be regularly serviced to ensure they continue to work efficiently – to remain under warranty, they need a yearly service. But because they’re not having to burn a fuel, they also tend to break down & need repairs much less often.

The key for ASHPs is that they’re a ‘set it and forget it’ element of your home. A good installation is something that may feel like a huge undertaking at the time, but is soon forgotten due to trouble-free operation.

Myth #10: “Heat pumps are money wasters!”

A heat pump system installed and operated inefficiently can certainly be a money waster – but then turning a gas boiler on with all the windows open is just as much a waste of money. However, an air source heat pump system installed by certified experts is often the opposite of this. In fact, ASHPs can provide up to £1100 of yearly savings on energy bills when replacing old electric storage heaters, or up to £340 of savings when replacing an old G-rated gas boiler.

Considering that the price of gas is most likely going to rise in the next decade, and coupling that with ASHP high efficiency and with the fact that they can be depended on for at least 25 years, they’re more of a cost-effective home investment than a money sink.

And, currently, you can make use of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) – which is a government-backed incentive that gives you an immediate £7,500 off your upfront costs. We also handle the application and all the paperwork, it’s never been easier to get £7,500 towards the cost of installation.

So not only are you getting a super efficient, dependable heating system upgrade that’ll keep costs lower in the long term, but you’re also getting it at a massively discounted price!

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